Behind the wizard stood a half-elf named Perry Stroika. He tripped up to the guard prepared to rattle off name, reason, and destination, but was met with unexpected hostility.
“We don’t need any more of your kind here in Khazan, elf!” snarled Joruk. “Why don’t you turn around and go back to the forests you love so much before I sic the direwolf on you?”
Perry made a slight bow of respect and said, ”Honored Guardian, I am seeking my father. I know he is a man of Khazan.” He gently shook the pocket in his breeches that contained his silver. He tried his most winning smile. ”I would gladly pay for the advice of a knowing person once that person was off duty later on…” He removed his cap to show that he had not inherited his ears from his mother. (Make a L1SR on charisma to see if the elf-hating uruk is mollified. Roll 4, 1. Fails.) Joruk swung his open hand around and backhanded the half elf, knocking him to the ground. Shouts of alarm and dismay rose from other people in line, and Joruk’s companion dropped his weapon and grabbed him.
“Joruk, Joruk, you can’t act that way,” shouted the other guard. ”This man has done nothing to deserve such treatment.”
“He’s an elf!” growled Joruk. ”Elves killed my father!” He aimed a kick at Perry, but the nimble half-elf rolled out of the way.
“Get inside the city, kid! Quick!” shouted the guard restraining Joruk.
Perry scrambled on all fours into the tunnel. He had lost his cap, and he had a bruise on one side of his face that would turn purple later, but he wasn’t badly hurt. Getting to his feet, he burst into a run, and came out of the gate at a good clip, moving so quickly that he couldn’t help running into the old apple pedlar. The old man went down and immediately began screaming. “Help! Guards! Murder! My apples!”Perry bowed briefly to the old apple seller, tossing him a copper piece. He grabbed an apple and bit into it, thinking that human society should not be judged by the uruk at the gate. He slipped seamlessly into the milling throng, massaging his throbbing cheek, and kept his ears open for any news that might lead him to his father, to some sort of temporary work or just for gossip about recent events in the city. He was alert for pickpockets as his elf-mother had warned him that a city would not be like a stroll in the woods. He was glad to know where the human quarter was and headed off to the left with hope in his heart.
Perry wondered how he would go about finding information about his father. All he really knew was the man’s name–Komo–and that he had been a hunter in his youth, and that he came to Khazan for some reason. He thought that it would be hopeless to just start asking questions, but that maybe a wizard of a higher level could help him. Maybe such a wizard could help him learn a few spells also. He decided to seek out human and elvish wizards, and see if he could get any help that way. As he came into a part of the city where the streets were mostly full of humans, Perry noticed two shops at about the same time. One showed a crystal ball on a painted sign–with words that read: Madame Zolgah, sees all, learns all, tells all–for a price! The other was clearly a tavern with a sign proclaiming it was the Black Dog Guesthouse. The two establishments were just across the street from each other. And coming toward him was the most beautiful human girl Perry had ever seen.
Perry sighed…for 2 reasons – first at the beauty of the girl (something stirred in both the elven and the human halves of his loins) and secondly because he never had been able to heed his mother’s warnings about his tendency to let romance lead him astray.
Either Madame Zolgah or the barman at the Black Dog might be able to put him on the trail of his hunter father and the latter ought to be able to supply at bed for the night while the former might be willing to teach him new spells in exchange for heaven knew what…
The unrepetently naive half-elf stepped up to the girl and smiled, giving his most winsome grin. “I’m new in this town,” he said, “and I certainly could do with a friend. What say we take a table at the Black Dog and get to know each other? The worst you get out of it is a friend and I have a feeling we may find common ground easy to find. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!”
With his characteristic half-bow, he swept his arm towards the tavern and crossed his fingers behind his back.
(L1SR on CHR) Rolled 5, 3 added 2 for his level. Failed.)
The girl looked at Perry, smiled slightly, then walked on past him. ”I’m sorry, Sir,” she called back over her shoulder. ”I promised my mother I’d never go into the Black Dog Tavern, especially not with a man. And anyway, I’m on an errand. I have to go bail my father out of gaol at the Wolf Street watch station. No time to dilly-dally, no matter how handsome the temptation may be. ” Having said all that in a rather breathless rush, she passed Perry and continued up the street.Perry shrugged and replied “Fathers! Tell me about them. See if you can stop by here tomorrow same time and I will too. If you’re free, you can choose where we go.”
He sauntered over to Madame Zolgah’s whistling as he went, sure he’d being seeing more of that girl.
He called out a cheery greeting as he entered the premises, ready to seek news of his father and the city, looking to learn some magic and maybe get some work. He thought about the last time he’d tried to get a wizard to teach him a spell and how he’d spent 2 long, hard weeks shelling nuts only for the obviously bored mage to teach him the Nut Buster spell. Useful in a crunch but not something he’d share with Madame Zolgah at least until he knew her quite well.
A bell chimed as Perry entered the shop. It was scarecely more than a closet with a table bisecting the room. Behind the table was a heavy gray curtain–it might have been black once upon a time. In front of the table was a 3-legged wooden stool. At both ends of the table were human skulls, weighing down the flimsy linen covering. Candle stubs protruded from the top of the skulls, but they weren’t lit at the moment, Perry stood there taking it all in. A thick, burbly voice broke the silence. ”Sit down. Madame Zolgah will be with you shortly.”
“Um,” said Perry. He thought about simply turning and walking back out.
“Sit!” barked the voice. ”Or you will never know . . . what Madame Zolgah knows . . .”
Perry had a sense of deja vu. He was taken back to his childhood when he had run away from his elf-mother in a fit of juvenile pique – he had stumbled across a cottage and entered a darkened room, fragrant with incense, to find an old crone stroking a horned toad. His escape had many twists and turns and had left deep scars in the core of his being. Still, he knew that the surface was often far from revealing the heart and so he resolutely sat as he was told, keyed up for a testing time…what Madame Zolgah knew was something he was determined to share in.
“Look in the crystal,” commanded the fat woman. ”What a curious image! What is that lizard? I have never seen one like that before.”
Perry looked at the glass and had a fleeting image of a horned toad glaring up at him out of it. Then Madame Zolgah dropped a black handkerchief over the scrying crystal. She moved her hands in what looked like a swimming gesture above the two candleflames and they suddenly burned blue and a strange thick aroma filled the air.
“Give me some gold,” croaked the witch. ”The more you give me, the more I will show you. I could tell you what you want for no charge–yes I see the question in your mind about your father–but even a fat old witch like me must eat and pay for her own wine. How much is this knowledge worth to you, lad?
Perry thought to himself that knowledge seldom proves to be worth less than the price. He licked his lips in anticipation. Madame Zolgah seemed the real deal – he was on the right track already! Even as a specialist mage himself, the novice conjuror was impressed by the old woman’s aura of khremm-laden wisdom. He slipped a deft hand into a pocket and laid 10 gold pieces out on the table in front of Madame Z. He leaned back in his chair, agog to see and hear all that she could tell him…
The witch reached out to him with both hands. With one hand she scooped his gold off the table and it disappeared into a pocket in her dress. The other hand cupped his. Her flesh was surprisingly cold and strong. ”Think of what you want to know,” she told him. ”Verbalize it and say it out loud. When I remove the cover from the scrying crystal, move your hand to touch the base of the sphere very lightly. Try to focus. If your thoughts are jumbled, the images will be jumbled. I will be able to see them with you, and I may able to tell you more.
Madame Zolgah pulled the cloth off the crystal. Where it had been clear, it now showed roiling gray mists. The mists moved and parted as if he were moving through them. Suddenly, it wasn't mist but hard gray stone in front of him. Stone with strange carvings on it--carvings of huge grey bats in flight. Then he moved through the stone and into a dark hallway. The hallway ended in an arch, and beyond the arch was a candle-lit chapel. An altar dominated the room, but it was covered with a crimson cloth that reached down to the floor. Instead of pews there were line after line of coffins. The view focussed in on one particular coffin, the third one from the left in the seventh row. Then suddenly an angry face appeared in the crystal--a dark, malignant face that seemed to be screaming, and the crystal shattered.
"What was that?" shouted Perry as glass spattered into him, one shard even cutting his cheek as he flinched away from the explosion.
"Kah, kah, Castle Greybat!" Zolgah stammered. Her face had gone pale. "Out! Get out of my house! You bring bad luck!" She stood up and dashed through the curtain behind her. Perry could hear heavy running footsteps receding down a hallway.
Edurin stifled his excitement long enough to say, “I won’t let you down.” But only ten days. Not much time for getting more than physically close to his goal. Plenty of time for adventure.Edurin tucked the purse of gold into the inside pocket of his leather jerkin. Strangely enough, he felt comforted having the silver anchor charm.Business concluded, Edurin headed out to meet up with Weslynn at the tavern. Along the way he picked up nuts, hard cheeses, and unleavened bread for the journey no more than nine days worth of provisions or as far as his personal stash of coins takes him. As always, he kept an eye open for trouble. He learned well his early lesson of hospitality (hostility) of Khazan. As he walked eastwards again, not exactly sure where to find the Grinning Goblin inn, he overheard a young half-elf asking directions from a passing patrol of Watchmen, one of whom was an Elf. The words “Grinning Goblin” were mentioned and the young stranger said, “Thanks, I’ll go there.” This seemed like an omen to Edurin. When the Watch moved on, Edurin went and introduced himself politely to Perry and asked if he was going to the Grinning Goblin.”Why, yes,” said Perry, “but first we need to find Herome Palace. My directions to the Goblin start from there, and I’ve never been in this city before.”"Nor have I,” answered the sailor. ”You look kind of banged up? What happened to your face?” he asked as they walked.”It has been a rough morning,” said Perry. ”A guard knocked me down when I entered the city. Then Madame Zolgah’s crystal sphere exploded in my face while we were looking at some coffins in Castle Greybat. That’s how I got this cut.”
“Castle Greybat?” asked Edurin. ”My friend, I think you need to come with me.”